A Runner's Letter to Santa

To: Santa Claus
Location: North Pole

Dear Santa,

We hope this letter finds you well, and that your final preparations for Christmas Eve are going smoothly.

Hopefully you remember us as the running columnists from Monterey County who wrote you last year with a wish list of things that could make us better runners. We’ve had a pretty good year, Santa – but we’ve also seen a lot of things that make us sad about our favorite sport, and we’re hoping that you could help us somehow this year. Incidentally, many other sports face the same problems that running does, so if you can fix these things, you’d have the admiration of millions of sports fans around the world. (Not that you don’t have that already).

We believe in you, Santa, and we want to believe in our sport also. Unfortunately, this seems harder to do with each passing year. In light of this, would the following things be too much to ask?

The excitement of true fans: We used to love watching national collegiate or professional championship events, world championships and Olympics – but in recent years, we’ve grown pretty jaded. We’re at the point where we don’t know whether or not to appreciate the feats we witness on the TV screen anymore. We used to watch with a sense of awe and wonder – but now we just wonder. Maybe it’s because we’re lacking …

Faith in hard work: When we watched sports as kids, there was an underlying premise that success was available to anyone with God-given talent and the willingness to work hard toward his or her goals. But lately, as top-level athletes in every sport get busted for various forms of cheating, it seems like skills and dedication are only part of the equation. It also makes us lose our …

Belief in records: Here’s how bad things have become: whenever we see a record get broken, or witness a performance for the ages by a star athlete, our first reaction isn’t to say, “Wow, I’m watching history!”, but to ask, “I wonder what he’s using to perform so well.” This happens with alarming frequency in nearly every sport. Who was the last truly clean 100-meter dash world record holder, Tour de France champion, or baseball home run king? Nobody knows for certain – which makes every current and future record a cause for skepticism rather than celebration.

(Considering the previous three items, another request comes to mind … Santa, we know it sounds kind of Grinchy - but is there any way you could put Barry Bonds in jail for a while? The folks in charge of things down here don’t appear to be making much progress. We know this one’s a longshot, but figured we may as well ask.)

You know what might help, Santa? Maybe if we could get some …

Honesty from cheaters: Last week our newspaper printed a “naughty” list of 85 baseball players who are thought to have used drugs. Guess how many admitted intentional wrongdoing, Santa? Precisely zero.

Just once – just one time – this year, we’d like to hear someone who tests positive for performance enhancing drugs come out and say, “You know what? You caught me. I was cheating, and I was wrong to do it. I did it because I’m trying to compete against a lot of other guys I know who are also cheating – and here are their names. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done it, and I’ll accept whatever punishment you decide is fair.” Could you imagine how refreshing that would be? What if we also had some …

Humility from professional athletes: Santa, don’t you think someone like Alex Rodriquez could just say, “Honestly, I can live quite comfortably on 20 million per year instead of 27 million; why not use the leftover money to reduce admission prices by 10 bucks, or to give free tickets out to kids?

Can you imagine this? It could all be one small step towards restoring the notion of …

Athletes as role models: We’re thinking of runners in particular here. Remember a long time ago, when the most famous athletes in the world were Roger Bannister or Jim Ryun or Bill Rodgers? Nowadays, most people would have trouble naming an Olympic gold medalist in any distance event over the past 20 years. Running has completely fallen off the radar. But there are several young Americans today with world-class talent. Maybe if they become more popular, we might also see …

Respect for runners: It seems like there’s always been this notion that distance runners are the misfits of the athletic world, since they don’t often participate in more glamorous sports like football or basketball.

But take it from us, Santa: distance running is hard work. Cross-country is a brutal sport – and the runners are just as intense and competitive as any 220-pound linebacker. They push themselves beyond boundaries of pain that most other athletes dare not approach, and they do it almost anonymously. We’d just like more people to understand that.

Well, Santa, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Sorry to make this list so challenging, but we figured that we’d rather have meaningful change rather than toys and gadgets that we don’t really need anyway. We know we won’t get everything we ask for, but anything you can do to make the world a better place for runners would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time, Santa. Have a safe flight on Christmas Eve!

Sincerely,

Mike and Donald
Monterey County, CA

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Year-End Gift Giving

Financial advice is probably the last thing you would expect to find in this column, especially after we disclose that neither one of us are financial experts. However, the end of the year is a great season for last-minute donations to ease your tax burdens and to put you in the giving mood for the holidays. And since we have no idea how many runners read the business section, we thought we’d share some advice with you here.

When you open your hearts and wallets to think about year-end donations, make sure you consider the local worthwhile running-related activities that improve the lives of individuals in our community. Many of the following causes would benefit from your generosity:

JUST RUN. This great youth program developed by the Big Sur International Marathon helps fight the youth obesity epidemic. The award-winning program is in 40 schools in Monterey County and expanding nationally as well. It teaches students to love physical activity, to be good citizens, and how to strive for goals and reach them. The program is provided free to schools and youth groups, and depends on grants and personal donations. Over 10,000 children are expected to enroll this year.

See www.justrun.org for more information, or send donations to “BSIM JUST RUN”, PO Box 222620, Carmel, 93922-2620. Call 831-625-6226 for more information.

WNLR SCHOLARSHIP FUND. Since 2001, the famous (to us, anyway) Monterey Bay Wednesday Night Laundry Runners club has provided over $35,000 in college scholarship money to deserving high school seniors. Last year, $9,000 was awarded to 8 students from several local schools. The scholarships are based on academic achievement, leadership, running ability, and financial need. 100% of your donation goes to these deserving students.
Send donations to the WNLR Scholarship fund, 24630 Avenida Principal, Salinas, Ca. 93908, or call 831-905-4301 for more information.

MONTEREY HIGH SCHOOL FIELD AND TRACK RENOVATION. The public/private partnership to upgrade the field and track facilities at Monterey High School has been ongoing for over 5 years now. Almost $1,000,000 has been collected but the cost of the project requires approximately $250,000 more.
This upgrade is long overdue for the athletic facility that was built in 1915. It will be a much needed community asset that helps not only students at Monterey High but everyone on the Monterey Peninsula. Andy Bedell, Monterey High School Principal, says that any donations are welcome, and there are still many tiles left in the “Honor Wall.”

Go to www.montereyhightradition.org to look at investment opportunities and find out more about the Honor Wall or other ways you can help. Call Principal Bedell for more information at 831-392-3833.

YOUR LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL RUNNING TEAMS. You don’t have to look any farther than your nearest school to find a worthy charity donation. Nearly all track and cross-country programs are chronically underfunded in school budgets, especially in comparison to larger sports. Every team needs uniforms, travel money, and other training gear. Some Monterey County schools can barely afford shoes to allow students to race. Call your local high school and ask for the track or XC coach, and they’ll be happy to accept your donation.

DONATE YOUR OLD RUNNING SHOES TO THE TREADMILL. The Treadmill in the Carmel Crossroads shopping center has been collecting used running shoes for many years. The shoes are delivered to impoverished areas, including a recent shipment to Guatemala with the local Dentists Without Borders group. They also are given out locally to low income families in Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula. So don’t discard your old running shoes – they might be a great gift for a family in need.

ENTER A LOCAL RACE. This is the fun way to donate. Sometimes we forget that virtually all local races are fundraisers for worthy charities. So whether you are a walker or a runner, and even if you don’t feel like racing, go ahead and enter a race.

While we have you doing your year-end planning, go ahead and put these races on your schedule:

Rio Resolution Run on January 1st benefits Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Monterey County. Go to www.riogrillsresoltionrun.com

Together with Love Run on February 10th benefits the Monterey Rape Crisis Center. Go to www.mtryrapecrisis.org

The Big Sur International Marathon and related events on April 26th and 27th benefits local schools, public organizations, and charities. The BSIM has provided over $200,000 a year to local organizations. Go to www.bsim.org

GIVE THE GIFT OF RUNNING. This one’s not tax-deductible, but it’s the best gift you can give. As you think about your year-end donations, consider encouraging or coaching someone close to you to start a running program. There’s no kinder present for a loved one or a friend than health and vitality.

On behalf of all of these worthy causes, thank you for supporting the local running community!

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